Family life in China

Authored by: William Jankowiak

Routledge Handbook of East Asian Gender Studies

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138959897
eBook ISBN: 9781315660523
Adobe ISBN:


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The pervasive focus on western scholarship has been on the transformation of Chinese society, while often, at times, ignoring the equally powerful force of culture continuity. This is especially so in studies of the Chinese family where the problem has been an inability to know exactly what constitutes the Chinese family. The Confucian model or ideal family model no longer is appropriate, while the variation in social organisation and customary practices is staggering in its complexity. China is undergoing rapid and complex social changes that have undermined the average person’s ability to anticipate and predict the future. Presently, there is a great variation in the notion of the ideal family. The variation depends upon local circumstances to such an extent that we cannot speak of the Chinese family. Today, there are only mosaic forms and behaviours that exist due to a combination of adaptions to regional economic opportunities and restrictions as well as to state policy (Jankowiak and Moore 2017). In an attempt to capture and accommodate the dramatic changes in Chinese society and the family over the last two decades, I have sought to survey trends in the study of the Chinese family. Specifically, I have focused on the exploration of the “subjectivity”, as it is manifested in “emotionality, desire, intimacy, privacy, individuality…and other forms of sociality” (Yan 2003:9).

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